Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ignored: The Growing Refugee Crisis in Iraq

While tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing Lebanon, the same is happening in Iraq as the violence has escalated to such a point that it is far past the time to ponder if a civil war might break out. It already has.

Reuters has the alarming statistics:

Iraq's most powerful religious authority, Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, joined the United Nations and U.S. officials in raising the alarm that a spike in bloodshed and "campaigns of displacement" threaten Iraq's very future.

The U.S. military admitted violence in Baghdad was little changed by a month-long clampdown and the city morgue said it had seen 1,000 bodies so far in July, a slight increase on June.

A day after the United States issued a stern warning to both Shi'ite and minority Sunni leaders to match talk with action on reining in and reconciling "death squads" and "terrorists" from their respective communities, the Migration Ministry said more than 30,000 people had registered as refugees this month alone.

"We consider this to be a dangerous sign," ministry spokesman Sattar Nowruz told Reuters, acknowledging that many more people fled abroad or quietly sought refuge with relatives rather than sign up for official aid or move into state camps.

The increase took to 27,000 families -- some 162,000 people -- the number who have registered for help with the ministry in the five months since the February 22 bombing of a Shi'ite shrine at Samarra sparked a new phase of communal bloodshed.

The US reaction? 'Stay the course'.

The U.S. military conceded that a massive security operation launched a month ago to stop violence tearing Baghdad apart had achieved only a "slight downtick" in bloodshed.

"It's a start. We're moving in the right direction," Major General William Caldwell said, saying it would take "months not weeks" to gain a victory he described as a "must win" for Iraq.

'It's a start'? After three years of extreme violence that's killed and wounded tens of thousands of Iraqis and coalition troops and displaced thousands of people, the best he can come up with is 'it's a start'?

And 'months not weeks'? How about 'years not months'?

The humanitarian crisis in Iraq has simply been ignored. Thousands, if not millions, are still without electricity or safe drinking water. $9 billion in reconstruction money has vanished. The US government has pumped $300 billion into its military machine at the expense of all American citizens and the Iraqi government now estimates that it will need an additional $50 billion to rebuild.

Before the war, administration officials said oil revenues would be sufficient for the Iraqi government to pay for the country's reconstruction.

Remember that promise? That one went the way of the flowers and candies expected upon arrival.

The mismanagement has been absolutely staggering yet not one person has been held accountable as the situation continually gets worse, not better. And, while all of this is going on, the Bush administration now has the cover of Israel's war with Lebanon along with its warmongering against Syria and Iran to hide behind as that conflict has driven Iraq off the front pages and has relegated commentary on TV stations like CNN to two minute update soundbites and a new weekly feature called 'This Week in War' which reminds Daily Show viewers of the 'This Week in God' segments which, to some involved in these wars, ought to be the title of CNN's show anyway. Although, if a God-figure really was involved, she/he/it sure wouldn't tolerate this madness no matter which monotheistic religion's edicts was used to justify it.

Only mankind can answer when enough is enough and some of us seem incapable of even imagining such a limit despite the human suffering and major tragedy caused by wars. You cannot have peace if you refuse to imagine it in its true form. And so, millions continue to suffer as this misadventure goes on without an end in sight. That is a burden we all must bear.

Futher reading:
Iraq Conflict Fuels Rise in Global Refugees to 12 Million: Survey

The UN Refugee Agency

International Red Cross/Red Crescent Refugee Aid Efforts

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